I went to my first Brewery Artwalk yesterday, and was truly inspired. Seeing the tremendous variety of artwork, and interacting with the artists where they live and work, was mind-blowing.
And what an environment it is. Billed as the world’s largest art colony, the Brewery arts complex (former home of the Eastside and later Pabst breweries and the Edison Power Plant) felt like it could have been in Oregon, or upstate New York, anywhere but within the city of Los Angeles. The studios in the one-story buildings each had front “yards,” with plants, lawn furniture, interesting trinkets, and even a hot tub or two. Inside, while some of the studios had distinct living and working spaces (often the living spaces were the lofts upstairs), others had a more seamless flow between the two. It was fascinating to see how different each space was, reflecting the personalities of the artists. Some of those artists, by the way, were painfully shy, and it must have been weird for them to have strangers tromping through their combined homes/work spaces.
As might be expected, the artwork ranged from painting to photographs to jewelry, mixed media, video, and more. However, we found the prices to be surprisingly high, up to at least $ 9,500 (why do art prices so frequently end in multiples of $ 500?) Much of this art was not priced to sell, in my opinion, and, according to our observations, sell it didn’t. We only saw one item sold, an attractive and reasonably priced ($120 or less) lamp. I began thinking about the whole art vs. commerce tension. I can understand how many of these items must have taken scores of hours of painstaking work, and that the artists would not want to part with their babies for less than a sum that reflected all of that hard work. And perhaps many of these artists are selling commissioned pieces beyond the gaze of art tourists such as myself. But it seems to me that some of these artists could use a bit of marketing assistance (especially for those artists or their assistants who hid in the corner when potential buyers came through their studio doors).
Likewise, I was pleasantly surprised that admission to the Artwalk was free. They could easily have charged a modest admission price of, say, $5 to $8, and still have attracted thousands of people. Moreover, we really lucked out on parking, which some say can be difficult. We showed up at after 1:30 p.m., and the parking staffers (who were pleasant and efficient) opened up some non-spots right inside the entrance to the neighboring UPS parking lot for us, so basically we got the third spot in. That also made for a quick and easy exit, and a very low-stress afternoon overall. The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
Speaking of cheese, the only knock I would give the Artwalk is the food. Inside the complex, there were basically two choices — the crowded Barbara’s restaurant, or the crowded food tent that was heavily biased towards meat items such as grilled hot dogs/sausages and beef ribs (and I am in no way intending to recall a certain verrrry long comments thread here from a few months ago). Whether or not one tries to take into account the demographics of who attends the Artwalk, it seems to me that more food options would make sense, and dollars.
So maybe next April, or next October, I’ll be back with my own snacks. But I’ll definitely be back.